Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Canned heroes and heroines: is it insane to portray unpopular characters?

This is a monthly event started by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh and organized by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and sign up for the next event.

First a couple of announcements:

1) Before you leave, don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post, I'm offering 20 AUDIOBOOKS, so your odds to win are really high!!!

2) The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond is finally here and it's free! <- click

"Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool."

And now back to our regular programs.

This past month marked a nice achievement for me: my debut novel, Chimeras, passed the 2,000 sale mark. That's not stellar, but it's not too shabby either for a previously unpublished indie author. So I wrote to my agent and asked her if, between those sales and the awards I won, she could pitch the novel to the Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint. She did, and the answer came back very fast: turns out, they had already considered my book, given that it was going reasonably well and receiving positive reviews, but, alas, my main character doesn't fit what they are currently looking for. The editor added that, among the things they are currently interested in, are female sleuths and serial killers.

My first thought: How many books with female sleuths and serial killers can you think of in the next three minutes? I can think of one for every fingers and toes I have.

Sassy girls seem to be the hot thing right now. Could it be because this country has an issue with feminism? Hmm, let's see... you can't be a sassy woman at work, in fact, you'll always be paid less than men, but let's make it up with lots of fake, sassy heroines who, by the way, only exist in fiction. Mind you, I love strong female characters. I just happen to believe that we need to promote and support more strong women in REAL life rather than resort to having them in fiction only. But that's another story.

Detective Track Presius (the main character in Chimeras) is a lovable asshole who makes mistakes, like we all do, and then regrets making those mistakes. He's flawed and, personally, I like flawed characters who grow throughout books. And Chimeras readers -- mostly women, I must say -- love Track.

On the other hand, I did write a book where the main character is a woman, and she, instead, turned out to be a bit more difficult to like. In fact, my friend Mike, who's read every single book I've written so far, wrote to me the other day and said, "I'm not sure I like Skyler." I felt a pang. What is it with me and my characters? I don't know. I like complex, multi-dimensional characters. Not everybody's likable in real life. If we want to read about flawless women because today's society doesn't give them enough room in real life, then this society has some issues.

Anyways, I wrote back to Mike and asked him, "How can I fix it?"

His response (he gave me permission to quote him): "Hey, liking is one thing, finding them really interesting is another. Not liking the main character is kind of refreshing. [...] I prefer an interesting character to the expected hero or heroine. No, I was thinking last night that I'm not so much reading this book as savoring it."

And that made me happy.

But boy, if you've ever gotten a review or some feedback on your main character, then you know how hard it is to accept that kind of criticism. And not only that, to make it a choice rather than just a "mistake"...  And so here I am, on this IWSG Weds, telling you guys about my woes on my main characters. Because as much as I love them, not everybody does.


Don't forget to enter the giveaway below: 10 lucky winners will get 1 copy of the Chimeras audiobook and a second audiobook of their choice. 

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  1. Congrats on your sales milestone! One of my insecurities is that people won't like my characters. But I get so tired of reading books with the same type of heroine over and over. It's nice to find characters who are different.

  2. Congratulations on the sales of Chimeras!
    I suppose not everybody will love our MC's, or what we write for that matter.
    I'm going to share a quote that I read on another IWSG blogpost today, that puts everything into perspective.
    "The secret of being a writer: not to expect others to value what you've done, as you value it. Not to expect anyone else to perceive in it the emotions you have invested in it. Once this is understood, all will be well." Joyce Carol Oates.
    Happy IWSG day!

  3. Wow! That's quite a post. I'm not sure I'm happy or sad that someone/anyone wants more female serial killers. Being rejected because to that? What's the world coming to? This proves Amazon has a screw loose :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  4. I have an unlikeable main character - I'm in luck!
    Sorry about Amazon. Their loss.
    I like characters like Track. He sounds a little like Pendergras from Preston and Child's novels.

  5. I am definitely a Track fan. I did not dislike Skylar, but I suspect she will grow on me more with the next release. I have found your books to be very interesting reads and different. It is the different that makes me love them. Stay true to yourself---Amazon's loss IMHO.

  6. I'm a fan of Track too. :) I think it's refreshing when there is a character that is not exactly likeable (I have a character like that) but hopefully they do grow and become more likeable - I like those kinds of characters. :)

  7. I agree with a lot of what you say. There's been genres I've stopped reading because they were all the same and I wanted something different. Different is good!

  8. If you ever learn the secret of making a character everyone falls in love with, please share. But since that's not possible, I'm thinking different is almost as good :)

  9. Hi, I'm the Mike quoted above. FWIW, I don't see any need for a main character to be likable. Interesting, yes, as that's the quality that keeps a reader engaged. True for adult level reading. Not true for kids or young adults as I believe they need role models. Simplistic, perhaps, but they'll get their cynicism and disillusionment soon enough.
    Re Track, what I'm waiting to see is if he pursues Diane to Boston or if she gets fed up w/ Boston winters and moves back to SoCal. Waiting to see where Elena goes w/ those two.
    Re Skyler, yes, her childhood was well and truly harsh w/ a Munchhausen Mommy. But she's an adult, clearly intelligent, but in no way a team player unless she gets to be the Alpha and the Omega. No, I don't like her but I do find her interesting. Andy and Yulia were much more sympathetic characters.

  10. Congrats on your sales! Best wishes on your success.

  11. Congrats on your sales! I do love strong heroines, and write them all the time, but I always try to make them real and interesting, not cookie-cutter.

  12. Congrats on all your achievements. It seems like you'll close the year on a great high! May the triumphs continue through 2015

  13. Congrats! 2000 sold is awesome!

    Although it's nice to like the character you're reading about, having the character be interesting is probably just as important (if not more so). Sometimes a character hasn't found the right audience either.

  14. Interesting post, Elena hadn't thought about it before, but I have a similar experience to Mike where Skylar is concerned. And I really like Track. But you know, Skylar and Track aren't so different. In fact, Skylar is, perhaps, more emotionally vulnerable than Track is...yet I think that's what drew me to Track and made me like him so much.

    Well, I have a conundrum to puzzle over tomorrow... :-)


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